Solid waste production in Greater Male and the surrounding outer islands averages 846 tonnes per day. Open burning and ocean dumping is the cheapest way in developing nations to tackle the solid waste generation. Thilafushi which is known as an island of trash is where all the single-use plastic waste are being transferred for segregation and dumping and without any sophisticated and environmentally friendly procedure, the generated solid waste leads to release of obnoxious gases and leachate on the site. The air quality was harmed by smoke plumes that were visible from Male, the international airport and adjacent resorts. Leachate and plastics pollute the nearby marine environment posing a nuisance to locals and visitors.
In its Strategic Action Plan 2019–2023 the government set initiatives for efficient solid waste management as a top priority but the superior technology like incineration is still lacking which will really help this small island nation to solve the issues of solid waste management and although installation of incineration is costly but in the short run its benefits along with recycling is quite huge for long term basis.
The solid waste management to Green Island by local government must include three technically viable options: (I) Ship all waste to Thilafushi (II) Encourage recycling and transport recyclable materials to mainland (III) Encourage recycling and construct an electricity-generating incineration plant and dispose of the ashes in a sanitary landfill on the island. The available option to the Maldivian government is to encourage inhabitants for the available potable drinking water (Standard quality approved) rather than to go for single plastic use bottles and to reduce the solid waste generation.
Despite the fact that unit-based pricing is effective in many settings, implementing such a system on small tourist islands is too challenging and is frequently opposed by the tourism industry and worsens illegal dumping and pollution of recycling waste bins, a problem that is well-known in larger cities.
Tourists are likely to exhibit more free rider behaviour than the local population since they do not feel responsibility for the garbage problem and do not have any social ties to the areas they visit. Due to the lower price elasticities of waste generation for visitors compared to locals, only the lowest level waste management alternatives (recycling, incineration and disposal) are appropriate for small tourist islands and are supported by the general public.
In order to reduce expenses overall while also taking into account regional and federal rules and waste management restrictions, several policy makers utilise non-linear optimization methods. Financial, transportation, treatment, maintenance and recycling costs as well as rewards from energy recovery, methane gas recovery, and the sale of recyclable materials are included in the cost functions.
According to a number of recent research there are some situations where the external costs of incineration are on par with or even lower than those of landfilling. Modern incineration facilities have less of an impact on the environment than landfills when land is expensive and densely populated, especially when the landfill sites are old and do not have adequate controls for issues like leaching and methane air emissions. This closely resembles the circumstance on Green Island.
Contributing writer: Saima Hamid Baba
Saima Hamid Baba is an International Climate Change activist, Co-founder of CERD Foundation, Forum Speaker.
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